Stefano Meschiari

W. J. McDonald Fellow — Dept. of Astronomy, University of Texas at Austin

Research Interests

I work on:
Astrophysics
Science education
Citizen science
Gamified education
Data analysis tools
Stats
Numerical simulations
Visualization
using:
R
JavaScript
HTML5/CSS
C
Java
Lua
Git & GitHub
Emacs (FTW)
What I like to do Analysing data from all sorts of sources, and creating tools to support others' ability to do the same; Creating tools for educating students, teachers and the general public about the process of scientific discovery; Facilitating education and outreach through online engagement; Running N-body and hydrodynamical simulations applied to protoplanetary disk evolution and planetary formation; Detecting extra-solar planets through modeling of radial velocity and transit data; Human-based computation and citizen science; Facilitating astronomy education in public spaces.

My Projects


Systemic Live Discover exoplanets using real astronomical data.
Web app
JavaScript
C
Emscripten
Public Data
Astronomy

Systemic Live is a web application that lets you visualize real radial velocity datasets from telescopes all around the world, and try to discover the exoplanetary signals buried in the data. Students, teachers and the general public get a taste of the scientific process of data analysis.

Systemic has become part of curricula of undergraduate and graduate classes at Caltech, University of Florida, University of Texas, MIT, San Jose State University, Delaware, Yale, Columbia, University of California at Santa Cruz, San Francisco State University, and others, reaching >400 students to date, and on the Massive Open Online Course "The Science of the Solar System", taken by ∼13,000 Coursera students.

Systemic Live uses the C/Fortran codebase of Systemic 2, transformed into high-performance JavaScript code through the magic of Emscripten.

GitHub

Super Planet Crash A game of gravity.
HTML5 game
JavaScript
Canvas/Paper.js
Gravity
Astronomy

Super Planet Crash is a browser-based gravity game where players create planetary systems and watch them evolve. The more crowded and chaotic the system, the better!

Super Planet Crash has been played more than 12,000,000 times, and it has been featured in articles on The Verge, Huffington Post, io9, Space.com, VICE, & others.

Systemic 2 Exoplanetary data analysis for scientists.
Public data
Astrophysics
R
C
Java
Numerical algorithms

Systemic 2 is a software package for fitting and analyzing a variety of exoplanetary data. It consists of a fast, parallelized C library (which you can easily integrate into your own project), an R package providing a high-level interface to the library, and an easy-to-use "studio" user interface for interactive analysis and plotting. Scientists can use Systemic 2 to either analyze, or reproduce the analysis of, exoplanetary datasets in a consistent, reproducible manner.

Systemic 2 offers interactive Keplerian and integrated fitting, Lomb-Scargle bootstrapped periodograms, Markov-Chain Monte Carlo and bootstrap uncertainty estimation, cross-validation, access to the GNU Scientific Library set of algorithms, a large library of pre-set plotting, and integrates with RVDB.io for easy access to published data.

GitHub

RVDB.io A browsable repository of public exoplanet data.
R
Shiny
Open data
Education
Astronomy
Beta

RVDB will be a curated repository of public exoplanetary data. Currently, it contains published Doppler radial velocities. Ultimately, it will connected with the Systemic software to give scientists, students, and teachers access to both a uniform compendium of published data, and tools to quickly and correctly analyze that data.

GitHub

SAVE/Point — Interactive Education Tools in the Public Square Interactive displays for astronomy education in public spaces.
HTML5 game
JavaScript
Canvas/Paper.js
Gravity
Education
Astronomy

SAVE/Point (PI: Meschiari) is a collaboration of astronomers and educators dedicated to developing new, innovative games and educational applications to teach astronomical concepts at all levels. Our mission is to create fun, engaging and scientifically accurate educational activities that are widely accessible and on multiple devices and browsers.

We also develop touch applications to install in public spaces as interactive kiosks. Our group received preliminary funding to pilot the installation of five wall-mounted tablets running our suite of applications in 2014-2015. The tablets will be installed on four floors in the Robert Lee Moore building at the University of Texas, which houses the Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy Department and various research centers. Our apps will be available to students enrolled in classes in the building, and to the general public and K-12 students on field trips who might attend public viewing nights with the department telescopes. Additionally, we licensed our game to the Seattle Museum of Flight for use as a stand-alone interactive exhibit on gravity.

We recently demo'ed our touchscreen games at the SXSW Gaming Expo, at the James Webb Telescope booth.

GitHub

Orbits Help an alien civilization design new planetary systems.
HTML5 game
JavaScript
Canvas/Paper.js
Gravity
Education
Astronomy

You are the newest employee of the planet-building company Nova Planetia, working for your short-tempered supervisor, Big Boss Reaz-7. Prove yourself worthy of a promotion by designing planetary systems to the exact specifications of your fickle customers.

Orbits consists of multiple bite-sized levels addressing specific scientific concepts about the motion of planets around stars. The game includes a login system which records students’ progress, and an instructor report system where instructors can check their students’ progress and scores.

AstroTRENDS A tool to understand trends in the astronomy literature.
Web app
Astronomy
Publications
Beta

AstroTRENDS is like Google Trends, but for the astronomy literature.

Blog posts:

AskAnAstronomer.org Ask questions about the Universe to real astronomers.
Education
Astronomy
Outreach
Jekyll

Curious about Astronomy? Have a burning question about the Universe that you'd like answered?

I created this website to connect K-12 students, teachers, and the general public with a team of graduate students, postdocs, researchers and faculty affiliated with the University of Texas and McDonald Observatory. The most interesting questions are published on this website.

Askanastronomer.org is a completely static website powered by Jekyll and GitHub Pages.

GitHub

Even more projects & toys For fun and profit (?)

LaTeX2Exp R
An R package to natively render LaTeX within plots (on CRAN).

GravityKit JavaScript
An interactive gravity simulator for in-class demos.

When Giants Collide Beta JavaScript
Is it a game? Is it a demo? Is it a web browser benchmark? Get some terrible thrills by smashing two giant balls of gas in your browser using Web Workers. It computes Barnes-Hut tree gravity for a collection of point masses.

PlanetDiscoveries Beta R Shiny
Interactive period-mass-discovery data plot. Uses rbokeh and Shiny.

tinymcmc Beta C
A tiny but generic implementation of the simple Metropolis-Hastings MCMC algorithm, with no dependencies.

BAM Lua
BAM (the Big Article Machine) is a lightweight, elementary, extensible templating language based on Lua. We use it to generate skeletons scientific articles.

AstroKOW JavaScript/Node.js
If astronomers were to spam you with scientific articles, what would their abstracts look like? Featuring ASCII animals.

Blanks JavaScript
Blanks is a Wikipedia memory game, and an experiment in speed development of a minimum viable game.